Critical program added to Ozark Center for Autism, thanks to donation

Friday, December 09, 2011 - Critical program added to Ozark Center for Autism, thanks to donation

JOPLIN, Mo.—A $20,000 donation from Vintage Car Rally Association (VCRA) will aid in the funding of a Parent-Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT) program at Ozark Center for Autism. Rex and Judy Gardner of Grove, Okla., founders of VCRA, presented Ozark Center for Autism with this generous gift in honor of Joe Knowles, a long-time member of their organization. Knowles participated in every VCRA rally since the association was founded in 2006. Before he passed away in 2010, Knowles was an avid supporter of VCRA and its mission to support autism causes.

“We are thrilled to add Parent-Child Interactive Therapy to the services provided at Ozark Center for Autism,” said Paula Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer-elect and administrator for all autism programming. “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Vintage Car Rally Association and the Gardners for not only their support of our school but for their mission to raise autism awareness.”
An intense treatment program, PCIT is designed to improve the quality of the parent-child relationship by teaching parents skills for managing the occasional disruptive behavior of a child living with autism. Through PCIT, a therapist coaches the parent or caregiver in special play designed to create positive interaction. The therapist also teaches caregivers how to deal with disruptive behavior. Much of the treatment is done through a two-way mirror, allowing the therapist to coach the caregiver through the use of an ear piece.

By improving challenging behaviors and reducing parenting stress, PCIT has been proven highly effective in helping caregivers build warm and responsive relationships with their children.

This generous $20,000 gift from VCRA will train therapists to utilize PCIT and allow the school to purchase specialized monitoring and camera equipment.

In appreciation of this gift, Ozark Center for Autism will name one of its learning centers after Knowles.

In December 2010, the Gardners made a $20,000 donation on behalf of VCRA. This donation was presented in honor of their grandson Justyce, a young man living with autism.

VCRA provides a unique forum for antique, vintage, and classic car enthusiasts to compete in timed, speed controlled distance rally competitions. A non-profit organization, all proceeds are donated to autism awareness programs and charitable organizations.

Though the previous center was destroyed during the May 22 tornado, amazingly, Ozark Center for Autism was able to resume treatment for its students less than one week later. Through the support of many in the community, Ozark Center for Autism was equipped with supplies, materials, and a temporary location.

Ozark Center for Autism, developed in consultation with the Cleveland Clinic Autism Consulting Group, provides intensive therapy, vital to unlocking parts of the brain that control functions such as language, emotion, social skills, and interest.

Since opening in 2007, more than 300 students have received treatment through Ozark Center for Autism. In 2010, the center established a Special Education Center, expanding its therapy services to kindergarten through 12th grade students. In January, Ozark Center for Autism opened the Four State’s only autism diagnostic center, which features the resources of an entire team of diagnostic professionals. This team recommends local treatment opportunities to families once a diagnosis has taken place.

About Ozark Center
An integral component of Freeman Health System based in Joplin, Missouri, Ozark Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adults, and families in an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Ozark Center continually looks for innovative ways to address the mental health needs of the community and promote awareness of mental illness in an effort to eliminate the discrimination associated with it. For more information, visit or call 417.347.7600.